Chicago (PAI) – Citing the AFL-CIO’s new dynamism and activism, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) formally rejoined the labor federation on August 8, leaving Change To Win, but not its organizing institute.
The re-affiliation vote, by the 1.3-million-member union’s board, meeting in Chicago, came four days before the opening of UFCW’s convention there.
“We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence,” UFCW President Joe Hansen said.
“[This] is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job. It is about joining forces to build a more united labor movement that can fight back against the corporate and political onslaught facing our members each and every day,” Hansen said.
Hansen said his union’s leaders realized the “paramount” need for more labor unity, and the opportunity, as a result of the 2010 election campaign – one where labor and its allies got clobbered by the GOP and the Radical Right, in congressional and state gubernatorial and legislative elections.
Subsequent “attacks on workers brought UFCW into direct strategic partnership with the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement. Our shared campaign revealed a dynamic and revitalized AFL-CIO and made it clear it was time for the UFCW to redouble our efforts to build a more robust and unified labor movement,” he explained.
Hansen also praised AFL-CIO President Richard “Trumka’s bold leadership and strategic advocacy on key issues” such as immigration reform, fixing the Affordable Care Act to ensure workers keep their multiemployer health plans, and the campaign for a full, permanent “National Labor Relations Board that protects workers’ rights.”
“The UFCW is proud to affiliate with a transparent, strategic and innovative AFL-CIO – an AFL-CIO committed to bringing a union voice on the job to millions of workers from coast to coast,” Hansen said.
Even after UFCW and six other unions left the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form Change To Win, Hansen and his union kept friendly relations with AFL-CIO unions. Reports said then that many UFCW locals were distressed about the departure.
Though UFCW left Change To Win, it will stay active in the smaller federation’s Strategic Organizing Center, and will “bring our AFL-CIO partners into collaboration with private-sector unions in an effort to build more power for workers,” Hansen promised.
One key complaint the Change To Win unions –- then UFCW, the Teamsters, the Farm Workers, the Carpenters, the Laborers, the Service Employees and Unite Here – had in 2005 was the AFL-CIO emphasized politics too much and organizing too little.
‘TOGETEHR WE ARE STRONGER’
UFCW’s return to the AFL-CIO follows that of the Laborers and most of Unite Here and the departure of the Carpenters for independent status. Hansen also stepped down as Change To Win chair, succeeded by Teamsters President James Hoffa. His union, the Service Employees and the Farm Workers are left in Change To Win.
Trumka welcomed UFCW back, calling it “great news for workers living in the ‘new normal’ of the low wage economy – working women, young part-time workers, retail workers, immigrant workers and so many more.
“A stronger, more unified grassroots movement of working men and women is exactly what’s needed to raise wages for workers and rebuild an American middle class,” Trumka said. “Together we are stronger – it’s as simple as that. Together working people have a stronger voice and the power to defend their rights on the job. Together we have a stronger voice in the global economy – the power to counter the excesses of CEOs and the ravages of inequality.
“This is a bold, important step by the UFCW,” Trumka said. “I have great respect for the members and leaders of UFCW— and especially for the innovative, courageous leadership of Joe Hansen. I look forward to a strong partnership that can make a real and growing difference for today’s workers.”
(AFL-CIO Now contributed some information for this story.)